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Cloud adoption looked healthy in 2020, but COVID-19 is driving a bigger boom

Cloud

Companies and workers continue to swarm to the cloud since the pandemic began, building on growth that has been steady, according to a new O’Reilly study.

When online tech and business training vendor O’Reilly conducted its 2020 cloud adoption survey of IT professionals in January, no questions were included about the then-unknown coronavirus. But as the study was being analyzed, compiled, and written starting in March, the growing pandemic has been graphically illustrating the strength of cloud computing as more companies are continuing to move their workers to the cloud to work from home instead of in their now-abandoned offices.

The 26-page report, “Cloud Adoption in 2020,” found that even before the pandemic began, 88% percent of organizations were using cloud infrastructure in some form, while 45% reported that they expect to move 75% or more of their applications to the cloud over the next year. But that was then, when things were looking very different back in January.

 SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

For the rest of the year, those numbers could likely see even greater growth due to the coronavirus, said Mary Treseler, O’Reilly’s vice president of content strategy, who oversaw the study. “COVID-19 was not a term we all knew yet,” when the survey began. “We had no idea that by the time the report was published that the world would be embroiled in the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings are really a sampling of where we were and then the pandemic happened.”

Instead of throwing the survey’s results upside down and making them moot, the global health crisis is actually proving the strength of the cloud marketplace, she said. For the study, 1,283 software engineers, technical leads and decision-makers were surveyed from a wide range of companies. About 20% of the respondents were software engineers, 11% were technical leads and architects and about 9% were software and systems architects. About 15% have C-level or executive roles, while about 10% work in technical management positions. Only about 25% of the respondents are managers or executives. About two-thirds of the respondents were in North America, while about 15% were from Asia, and another 11% were from Europe. The study was conducted from January 9-31, 2020.

Some 21% of the respondents said their companies are hosting all their business applications in the cloud. Forty-nine percent said their organizations are still running applications on-premises, while 39% said they are using hybrid public and private cloud deployments. Some 54% of the respondents said their companies use multiple cloud vendors. Ten percent of the respondents reported that their companies are not using cloud computing at all.

Interestingly, some 25% of the respondents said in January that their companies plan to move all their applications to a cloud in the next year, while about 17% of respondents from large organizations with more than 10,000 employees said they have already made that move.

Sixty-one percent of the respondents said their companies are using public cloud rather than private cloud, with 67% reporting they use Amazon Web Services (AWS). Microsoft Azure public cloud is being used by 48% of the respondents, while Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is being used by 32%. Some Azure and GCP customers said they also use AWS, but no AWS users said they also use Azure or GCP.

These rankings are not a surprise, said Treseler. “AWS was able to get in early, they were first in the game, but I do think we are going to see a huge market shift for Microsoft Azure,” due to the company’s long-standing enterprise market connections. “It’s the market Microsoft is in. Google didn’t play in that enterprise market at first, so they had a hard start to get there. Now that they have figured it out.”
 
Overall, the survey results–especially in today’s global pandemic atmosphere–are a starting point for a conversation about cloud use and not a final analysis, said Treseler. “It’s pretty obvious that the results of the report still ring true. What has happened is the cloud is being seen as a true support backbone for what is happening with COVID-19 and all these companies that have been moving their work to the cloud.”

And it’s not just been seen with IT companies, but with all kinds of businesses–education systems, health care organizations and others that are relying on the cloud for people working and learning from home, she said. “All of that is possible because of the cloud.”

As the pandemic continues until a vaccine and other effective treatments are found, the popularity of cloud use appears to be on an upward trend through 2021, said Treseler. “We do believe it is taking off. There are a number of companies that have adopted it, but the interesting thing is that more companies are moving more of their applications to the cloud.”

Previously, the pattern had been that companies were incrementally moving parts of their IT systems to the cloud one at a time. That’s now changing quickly due to the pandemic, she said. “What you are going to see is an acceleration of more people going 100% to the cloud.”

That extra demand will likely be absorbed seamlessly by the big cloud providers, just as they have since the pandemic began and cloud use began spiking upward, she said.

“We didn’t see a lot of outages for the cloud companies so far,” said Treseler. “I think they are prioritizing the loads to address the needs of customers. I don’t think long-term you’re going to see issues with scalability. The ones who are winning out there now are the big cloud companies. If they don’t have the capacity right now, they are building it. 

As the still-growing push to the cloud continues, a critical business need–cited by 65% of the respondents–are more IT workers who are fully-trained in cloud-based security for migrating applications and implementing cloud-based infrastructure, the study reported.

“It was the thing that really struck me,” said Treseler. “When you look at the needed skills for the future, the number one mentioned skill was security. I think that what we’re going to see is the skills gap is going to widen again, and we already have a pretty big skills gap. Hiring engineers who understand the cloud is very difficult, and I think it will get even more so.”

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